Canadian Rubinsky's debut consists of five longish stories on trendy topics--child abuse, bulimia, self abuse, etc.--that still don't manage to smother entirely the robust natural energies of her writing. Most of the pieces are set in or connected to the small Alberta town of Ruth, on a lake named Judith--though Rubinsky's ideas seem to arise about equally from setting and from topic. ``Necessary Balance,'' gets at the texture and uncertainty of the lives of two married Ruth couples--one upscale (husband a successful building supplier), one not (husband and wife operate a shabby lake resort); the old and established friendship among this middle-aging foursome is more than enough story for Rubinsky's talents--but things quickly grow made-for-TV-ish as one of the fathers gets caught having sex with his teen daughter (albeit not his ``real'' one) and denies it. Down in L.A., a sister of one of these Ruth mothers is an alcoholic who's married to an insensitive gynecologist and has a bulimic daughter (``Algorithms''); she meets, it may be said, a dreadful end. Rubinsky's stories are pulled between the desire for a real telling of real life and a hyped-up theme-driven element that takes the form of characters, often lower class, telling their own tales in ways that are inexplicably eloquent indeed--as in the high verbal tumble of the comic ``Fetish,'' told by a trailer-trash character in Arizona who masturbates on his own babies. ``The Other Room'' is told by a woman driven mad by the death of her child; and ``Road's End'' returns to Ruth and the Snopesian saga of squalor, poverty, self-abuse, madness--and hope, it would seem--told by the older brother of the Arizona masturbator. Verbal energy, narrative drive, high pace, an eye hungry for detail--all show a writer waiting at the gate for when she finds her true subjects.